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The Song Of Onionbog, Pt 4: Fascism & War

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Onionbog is booming. Booming like a stinking, sulphurous deep-sea crater, emitting stinking hot burps on a regular basis. But I’m no fool. That’s why I’m building defenses. To keep my lovely hole in the ground safe.

I love this place. I hate this place. I’ll hate to see it fall. I’d love to see it fall.

What’s happened since my last diary? Well, it turns out I’m an underground fascist. By which I mean I do my fascism underground, as opposed to meaning I am secretive about it in any way.

See, for the last 6 months of in-game time I’ve been having a problem with double-booked beds. I create a bedroom, assign the bed to a dwarf, and discover that I’ve accidentally given it to two dwarves instead of one. The only solution I could see was to have the bed shipped back to furniture storage, then send it back and make a new bedroom.

Turns out I am a monster.

“Oh, Armok protect us,” cried Jiim. “Not again.”

The expedition leader had just politely forced open the door to one of Onionbog’s fine bedrooms to see, and not for the first time, two dwarves sharing the cosy space instead of one. He examined their faces. They bore smiles, but they were the sugary smiles of dwarves up to their noses in the mossy pool of madness.

“I am so sorry,” said Jiim. “I am tremendous sorry. It is the right of every inhabitant of Onionbog to have their own chamber. I will call the dogsdwarves to return this bed to storage immediately.”

“Oh, oh, no,” spoke one of the dwarves. “She’s my wi–”

Stroking his braided moustache in biting consternation, Jiim went barrelling out of the room in shame.

“She’s my wife!” the dwarf called after him. But a grubby dogsdwarf was already muscling his way through the door, manhandling the furniture from the room.

Turns out my beds were being assigned to two dwarves because they were husband and wife.

Fuck.

Winter arrives at Onionbog, and I spend those hostile months setting up my defenses. First: traps. I’d been putting this off because I figured it’d be headache-complicated, but it’s actually a piece of cake. You tell a mechanics dwarf to build some ‘stone mechanics’, and you tell a carpenter to build some menacing spikes or spiked balls or cages, and then the two items are assembled wherever you want your trap.

Within a week Onionbog’s front hall is a terrifying gauntlet of (ineffectual, unreliable, wooden) traps. Any interlopers will (probably) be attacked by stakes (which will snap on contact), assaulted by swinging, spiked balls (which will bounce off them harmlessly) and anyone who survives that gets a wooden cage dropped on them (which they’ll then punch their way out of like a paper bag). Job done!

That’s the traps in the bottom right, there, just before the door.

Setting up my military is more complicated. Much more complicated. Setting up my military almost brings me to tears. All I want to do is take my two axedwarves, Aleck and Ablel, put them in a room together with two wooden training axes and let them beat the shit out of one another until they’ve learned a thing or two about beating the shit out of things. That way when I accidentally tunnel into an underground cavern of snailmen I’ll at least be able to tell the Dwarf Fortress veterans reading this “I had a militia, proud warriors to a man, but they were overwhelmed.”

Following a guide, I select Ablel as my militia commander. I give him a squad, which in my game receive the name The Defended Fountains. I select their barracks. I select their uniform, and equipment. This is where I start to get lost.

Fiddling with the squad options, I set The Defended Fountains’ status to “Active/Training”, and I set their orders to “Train, minimum 2 squad members”. Do I want to set them to “Alert” as well? I have no idea. Also, in the barracks I can put a “T” for “Training” next to their names if I press ‘t’. I do this. Aleck and Ablel still aren’t training. Are they not training because I’ve set them to “alerted”? Or “active”? Or because the barracks are missing something? Or because the barracks are on the wrong setting?

Looking for help, I begin reading various horrible stories about how dwarves don’t stop to eat or drink while they’re training, and that if you’re too zealous with their schedule they’ll die of thirst. Obviously, the thought of the only two warriors in Onionbog dying mid-training is upsetting.

I’m just going to push this whole story up against the wall and shoot it. Basically, after an entire Winter of toggling things in my military on and off I discovered the reason Aleck and Ablel were so infrequent in their sparring was because they’re both lazy. Nothing to do with me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dwarf Fortress.

Probably for the best, anyway. Ablel’s a better warrior than Aleck in every single respect, plus he made it to the supply bins before Aleck. As such, Ablel’s currently kitted out in a full leather uniform, while Aleck’s wearing leather trousers and a single leather glove. Aleck is Michael Jackson on a bad day. So, the more often these fight, the more likely Aleck is of sustaining a terrible injury. And we don’t have a doctor in the fort yet.

Spring sees the arrival of a proper horde of immigrants, bringing Onionbog’s population from 21 to 40. Welcome, you bloody freeloaders! Be sure to wipe your feet in the entranceway on your way in. That’s a metaphor. The entrancwaye is full of mud and rotting dragonflies. Wiping your feet anywhere here will only make you dirtier.

Wait, what the Hell is that?

My word. A goblin thief is impaled on one of the wooden stake traps at the entrance to my fort. How long has he been there? Did the immigrants have to walk past him? How unhygienic. Men, loot his corpse and chuck his body in the dump.

I lob three of the new arrivals into the militia. One of the remainder is a talented bone crafted, and immediately sets to work making masterpiece-level bone crowns out of horse skulls. Which is nice.

Later that day, one of my stonemasons has a baby while she’s at work, taking our populace from 40 to 41. She doesn’t actually stop working to do this. I appreciate Onionbog doesn’t have a health and safety policy, but still.

I celebrate all the new arrivals by getting everyone in the fort with a knack for stone engraving to engrave the walls and floor of the dining room. Engrave what? That’s up to them. Onionbog isn’t a fort that inspires much, evidently. One of the carvings is of Kerion, surrounded by other dwarves. Another carving is of the time Goden got possessed made that wooden bracelet. One of my stone detailers just draws himself. Twice. Worst dining room ever.

Man, I need some action around here. I get my wish when one of my fishermen is attacked by a creature from a nearby lake, scaring the piss out of him and sending him running back to the fort for a drink.

Dispatch the militia!

“It’s war, fellows!” spoke Ablel, commander of the militia. “Tekkud! Kel! Cease your wrestling. Jiim has learned me that we have an enemy, and we are to not return to the fort until they are all dead and still.”

“Does this mean we’ll get real weapons?” questioned Kel, his tender face full of hope.

“No,” said Ablel, for he knew the exact quantity and location of all the metal axes in Onionbog. There were two, and they were in his room. “You will be granted your battle axe when you have earned it, like Aleck and I.”

“Who are we making dead?” questioned Aleck.

Ablel’s face took on the hardness of iron. “The hoary marmots,” he said. “A marmot is not a monster to be talked with. I have seen a marmot, once. It took a dwarf’s kneecap clean off.” This was a rapid fabrication, for Ablel had never seen a marmot.

“Be stony, men,” Ablel said to the silenced barracks. “The war has begun. It is our job to end it.”

The militia have been under these orders to Kill All Marmots for about a month when I realise that none of them left the fort with so much as a wineskin full of water, so I decide bring them home before they starve. Their killcount after a couple of weeks on duty? Three hoary marmots. That’ll do, men. That’ll do.

What I really need, now, is some metal arms and armour for these guys. With food and drink supplies looking steady, I launch a huge array of construction. By summer in my second year Onionbog has a mine:

And it also has functioning industries for the production of both leather and metal goods. Plus a kennel, for training war animals. My dwarf skilled in animal handling looks over the collection of knackered donkeys, bony cats and tame dogs in our dining room, and informs me that none are suitable. Damnit.

Soon the militia are equipped with iron weapons and mail shirts. Excellently, I discover that I can make them wear the mail on top of their leather armour, the poor bastards.

Any day could still bring disaster to Onionbog, but for the first time I feel ready for it.

This is probably a mistake.

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